With All The Miracle Drugs on TV US Has Shorter Life Spans

Want to know something truly disgusting – no, sad really? With all the money that’s spent on healthcare in the US, especially on miracle drugs, the average life span in this country ranks only 26th among the worlds 36 most developed countries, otherwise known as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or the OECD. That’s right, the US has shorter life spans than most of the other developed countries in the world.

What makes this so ironic is our near religious faith in the healthcare system, including the recent plethora of alleged miracle drugs. How can that be? Clearly there is a serious disconnect in this country, between the promises of medical technology and the everyday reality we deal with.

Drowning in miracle drugs and healthcare commercials

With All The Miracle Drugs on TV US Has Shorter Life Spans
With All The Miracle Drugs on TV US Has Shorter Life Spans

I’ve actually counted the number of drug and healthcare related commercials in a typical commercial sequence. On average, about one in every three or four commercials is related to healthcare, and mostly to drugs of some sort. There are now drugs to treat diseases most of us don’t even know to exist.

If taken at face value – something easy to do with TV – there’s a treatment for every medical condition that ails us. It’s a wonder that we even have illness and ailments at all anymore.

But that’s a fundamental part of the disconnect. Obviously it isn’t true – after all, we rank only 26th in longevity. Either the drugs don’t really work, or the vast majority of the people who need them can’t afford to get a hold of them.

If a Martian were to crash land on Earth, in the land known as America, he might conclude that this is a very sick civilization. And I think we can make a case for that, but not in the sense that you might think.

Money is no object – or so it seems

Healthcare in the US consumed 17.9% of the overall economy in 2016. We spend an average of $10,348 per person – more than $3.3 trillion total – compared with $5,169 per person for other rich countries. More significantly, that’s also roughly twice the percentage of economic output that is spent by other OECD countries on healthcare.

Much like a cancer, the healthcare share is expected to grow to 20% of the economy by 2021. With the advent of Obamacare, I’d say that number is an optimistic one at that.

The entire emphasis on healthcare in the US is to facilitate funding. Controlling costs is never discussed, at least not with serious intent. Like every other problem in this country, there’s the simplistic – no, childlike – assumption that we can fix what ever is broken by printing and borrowing more money to throw at the problem. No one needs to make any sacrifices – we can have it all. And don’t dare tell us anything different.

Medical technology – a false god?

If the roughly $3.3 trillion spent every year on healthcare gets us only #26 among the OECD in life spans, how much will it take to get us to number one, or at least closer to it? $4 trillion? $5 trillion? $10 trillion?

At what point do we wake up and realize we’re worshipping a false god? False god as in a Trojan horse filled with empty – but very costly – promises.

I’m convinced that we’re not paying for what medical technology is doing, but for what we wish it would do. And apparently we’re prepared to spend any amount of money to make it happen.

Will it work? It hasn’t so far. I submit that most of the increase in the average life span in the US in the past 100 years has been due to economic factors, and much less on medical technology. You know, every day factors, like central heat, running water, refrigeration, and better distribution of information.

If that’s the case, we may see a decrease in longevity now that the economy seems to be in perpetual bumping-along-the-bottom mode. Or worse…

A false sense of security

The false god analogy isn’t an exaggeration. How many people in America are forgoing taking better care of themselves in favor of relying on technological magic pills? And if I can take it to it’s next logical step – how many people believe, if only subconsciously, that medical technology will one day enable them to cheat the Grim Reaper?

I don’t think I’m off base with that. Part of the reason why religious faith has been so discredited in the past 50 years is that many now have “faith” that it’s within the grasp of Man to be his own savior.

My response: Good luck with that assumption. The cemeteries are filled with people who believed the same thing. Make peace with your Maker – you’ll be meeting Him some day. You can count on it – whether or not you find that peace between now and then.

Obamacare – a last ditch effort to keep the charade going?

There’s been a lot of criticism of Obamacare, including a fair amount from yours truly. Obamacare is doomed to fail, but not for the reasons commonly cited. It will fail because any attempt to deal with the healthcare issue is prohibited from doing anything other than increasing funding.

Obamacare will fail because it will accelerate the rise in healthcare costs until the system implodes. And it will because healthcare is eating up more and more of the economy each year.

The dirty little secret is that that is exactly the path the US healthcare system has been on for years. I gave the president credit for trying to shake up the order, but it will have the opposite affect. The people wanted something done about healthcare and they got it. But as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, your wish may come true.

I think that’s getting ready to happen.

Hey kids – don’t do drugs – unless…

You gotta love the “War on Drugs”, and especially the hypocrisy surrounding it. Kids spend 12 years in school learning all about the horrors of illicit drug use. They’re exposed to parades of police lectures, cute K-9 dogs, anti-drug literature, and endless lessons in science and health classes about the risks of drugs. The message is simple: Don’t do drugs!

Then they come home.

When the TV is turned on, what do they see? About a dozen commercials for prescription drugs each and every hour. Call it Pill Pornography.

There’s a pill to put you to sleep at night, one to wake you up in the morning, one to help you breath, one to help you digest your food, one to control your blood pressure, one to lower your bad cholesterol – and another to raise your good cholesterol, one to control your heart beat, one to make you happy when you aren’t, one to keep your kids from bouncing off the walls, and several to keep you regular in the bathroom. We don’t need our bodily functions any more – prescription drugs can do what our bodies won’t.

And kids see our response – the fact that so many adults are on various drug cocktails that combine several drug therapies to deal with whatever doesn’t feel right to us.

And we wonder why “kids these days” seem to be so confused

They have every right to be. Then they go on drugs themselves, getting “legal” prescriptions just like adults do, stealing their parents legal drugs, or buying the illicit kind off the street.

Again we wonder why, when the better question is why not? If you’re a prolific consumer of alcohol, it’s likely your kids will be also. And so it is with drugs. A society that champions “good drugs” has little hope of controlling the bad ones.

What’s the message? Is there a message, at least a logical one? We can’t blame the kids for this. And worse, if they don’t get the message we want them to get – the one that goes something like do as I say, not as I do – there’s a better chance than ever that they’ll be put in jail for their disobedience. And when that happens, their productive lives might be over before they even get started. Is that any way to build a future generation?

This healthcare game we’re playing isn’t harmless.

This is truly a complicated topic – hypocrisy always is. What are your thoughts?

( Photo by StockMonkeys.com )

25 Responses to With All The Miracle Drugs on TV US Has Shorter Life Spans

  1. Great post Kevin, its an interesting phenomenon with our healthcare system, there are few processes where you have one person receive benefits, one person/entity administer the benefit, and a wholly unrelated person/entity pay for the benefits. This disconnect is helping drive up costs, we need a more straightforward delivery method if we wanna cut costs, but that is not the objective!

  2. Hi Jim – I think that’s about right. The fact that the people who are receiving the benefits often don’t pay for them, or at least nothing approaching the full cost, causes a demand for still more benefits. Those who have to pay are always paying more. It’s a relentless system, with little focus on cost.

  3. I get a little upset that I’ve chosen to live a healthy lifestyle so that my health care costs are minimal, but I don’t benefit from that under the healthcare law. I would like to see incentives for healthy living.

  4. Hi Stefanie – Unfortunately, under Obamacare, it looks like the system is completely based on healthy people like you compensating for others who are not so healthy. That kind of justice doesn’t exist within the new parameters.

    That said, I don’t think we’ll ever hatch a healthcare system that will be both comprehensive and completely fair. We’re fighting the limitations of our mortality when it comes to healthcare, and there are too many variables.

  5. I just watched a great documentary on Netflix, called prescription thugs. It paints a very different picture of the pill culture we live in.
    It suggests that alot of these so called diseases we’re suppose to have are basically made up. Many of the pills do not work at all. The ones that do cause other side effects that more pills are prescribed to combat those symptoms.

    This has to do more with big pharma but it will cause you to think much differently about this stuff.
    I recomend watching it if you have netflix.

  6. Hi Tim – I’ve heard that argument and believe there’s at least some merit to it. I just heard of a new disease on a commercial last night. My wife and I looked at each other and said “what the heck is that and when was it hatched?”. Any time big money is flowing in any direction we need to be suspicious. I wish you had the name of that program.

  7. It’s called prescription thugs. It’s interesting for sure. I usually gauge these things by, if it makes sense to me then I have a tendency to believe it.
    I usually figure the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    Your right, these companies are beholden to making money for there stockholders.
    Tell me what you think, if you watch it.

  8. Nice article, we are the fattest industrialized nation on the planet, and instead of the doctors telling the patients to lose weight and adopt a healthy lifestyle they push drugs and tests and more drugs. How about “go home lose 100 pounds and then you are allowed to come back.

    As long as we have this “nanny state” we will never get healthcare or education or much of anything else right.

  9. But you’re not getting it Rick – there’s no money in telling someone to go home and lose 100 lbs. Pills, tests and “see me in two weeks” is the golden calf. In the current construct that is the American healthcare system, each patient is like an annuity that pays and pays. And for the patients, the easy solutions presented by pills creates a “drive thru” healthcare mentality. Health with no effort. Works perfectly with the “we like life easy” state.

  10. It seems such a sad affair that a good amount of the medical field today is so consumed with prescription drugs. That of course involves a lot of money to be made between the Doctors & pharma companys. What’s equally sad is there are proven homeopathic or natural cures available to cure us that’s basically taboo as far as the medical field is concerned. For instance, I had some serious bowel problems for over a year. Obviously the drugs I was prescribed – basically did nothing ! I’m talking no fun here. I discovered Flaxseed a few years back. Ancient Romans and Greeks took it for good health . I add a teaspoon in my yogurt most days…wonder seeds got my plumbing system back in smooth working condition! Also ever ask a Doctor for good dietary advice? …it’s almost like they don’t care. Lastly, notice how Doctors & nurse practioners don’t really examine your body much anymore ? It’s more like… here’s a few new drugs and a referral to see a new specialist ! Boy, I could go on forever on this subject… but enough for the time being !

  11. Hi Mark – That’s an excellent point about doctors not examining you any more. They seem to be quick to prescribe pills or send you to a specialist. It’s all a system now, so they take you in, see you for ten minutes, then send you forward, deeper into the system. Once you’re in, you don’t get out.

    On the topic of natural remedies, I was having problems with my knees going up stairs, to the point of thinking I might eventually need knee surgery. But I heard about fish oil, started taking it every day, and after a few weeks, the knee issues have largely disappeared. We need to take home/ancient remedies more seriously. You mention the ancient Greeks and Romans, I was watching a PBS program on Roman medicine. They said Roman medicine was the most advanced in history up until the beginning of the 20th century. They had hospitals, anethesia and surgical procedures that would be unknown until the 20th century. We underestimate the ancients, always assuming growth in human knowledge is linear. It isn’t. The ancients knew a lot more than we give them credit for.

  12. Hi Kevin. One’s diet needs to be foremost in your mind when confronted with the majority of ailments we have today. I’m not a food snob, vegan, or any such thing, but I have tried to eliminate as many processed foods as possible and I think before I eat now. And there are many homeopathic remedies that do work, sometimes not as quickly as prescriptions, but they do work or help to alleviate some problems. I also worked in healthcare in another life, and I know about pharmaceuticals and what the companies will do to market their product. It comes down to common sense and personal responsibility for our own health. I’m not saying that if you have heart disease not to take your medication…take it if you have serious issues that could take your life, but we don’t need prescriptions for every little ache and pain. Change your diet first and then see how things go, and give it more than a week to make a difference.

  13. Hi Bev – I’ve been hearing a lot about the same things, and I’m trying to modify my own diet. Salt is a major culprit. It was once primarily a preservative for meat, which would be soaked and largely purged of salt before eating it. But today it’s in everything, esp processed foods. Even if you eliminate table salt you’re still taking in incredible amounts of sodium. Sugar is another not-so-good product that’s in unexpected places. I think that started in the 50s when food companies started targeting kids. They sugar-coated everything (literally) to get the kids on board. We can go on and on about this. But I think it’s also important to get regular exercise. I see too many people who look as if they couldn’t walk around the block or make it up a flight of stairs. That can’t be.

  14. Hi Kevin – great article!

    When it comes to healthy eating, I don’t think you can really improve on what Michael Pollen says:

    1. Eat Food (by which he means as unprocessed and close to its natural state as possible)
    2. Not Too Much
    3. Mostly Plants

    From my own experience, I know it’s true.

    I’ve exercised moderately several times a week and, while I am not a vegetarian, have eaten a primarily vegetable-based diet for twenty years both for health and compassion reasons (the regular agribusiness is seriously awful with regards to its treatment of animals.) Now, at 51, my blood pressure and all those other types of numbers are the same as someone in her twenties according to my doctor. I take no medications and have not had a significant health issue in decades.

    Yet many of my family members, who not only don’t exercise but also carry on the good old-fashioned Midwest tradition of meat at every meal, often remark how ‘lucky’ I am to look younger than I am and enjoy such good health.

    While I fully acknowledge that I have been blessed with naturally good health, when I suggest that lifestyle also has something to do with it, they dismiss it or laugh at my ‘weird’ eating habits.

    Meanwhile, most of them are overweight, suffering from high blood pressure, experiencing the beginnings of Type 2 diabetes and other things that they claim are the supposed natural responses to aging even though there is research that proves that, while there are some things inevitable in the aging process, most can be prevented or slowed down significantly by good lifestyle choices, at least until the very end of a person’s life.

    I apologize if I sound superior or condescending but, seriously, many people, even the otherwise intelligent ones, simply don’t want to acknowledge that they are causing many of their own health issues

  15. Actually Suzy, you come across as a lot less condescending than most healthy eating advocates, who often sound like food Nazis and drive people away from their message. I agree that diet is a major health factor, and one we’re only beginning to understand. If you look at countries like France and Italy, where they eat the Mediterranian diet, they live an average of five years longer than we do. Japan is another example. There’s something to that. In the US, much/most of the food is junk food, and we probably do eat too much red meat. I’m trying to cut back on red meat, but I do like pork. Still I try to eat mostly fish and chicken, but also often go meatless.

    A bigger problem though seems to be our national obsession with carbs – sugars and starches. They’re all over our diet. They’re so common that they’re hard to avoid. Meanwhile TV is blasting them at us, triggering the appetite. That’s where a lot of the fast foods and processed foods are centered.

    We need a food revolution/reawakening here to fix this. It’s tough to deal with it individually when it’s really a cultural problem. I remember when my kids were in school, the cafeteria emphasis on french fries, tacos, pizza and sweets was overwhelming. Kids are being raised to consume junk, and it’s hitting us in health and longevity.

  16. Thanks Kevin, I agree a (quiet!) cultural revolution needs to take place.

    I think that in many of the countries you mention, food is central to social, family and, in a way even spiritual, life.

    I’m guessing food/cooking is seen as a way of nourishing both the body and the spirit as it brings friends and family together and using fresh, healthy and beautiful (and there is an aesthetic to it I think) is part of this.

    I know when I look at a plate of fresh veggies, I am sometimes struck by how beautiful it is with the different colors/shapes/textures. The bounty of the earth truly is one of the purest gifts of the Divine.

    And when you think how lucky we all are to live in a time and place where we can have these things so easily it’s even more amazing – remember, just a hundred years ago, even oranges were considered so exotic that to get one as a Christmas gift was considered very special. (I know this from reading books by Laura Ingalls Wilder!)

    Then again, perhaps I am as weird as my family claims!

  17. Hi Suzy – You’re not weird, you’re just a free spirit and a free thinker, which are both advantages (who wants to be the same as everyone else anyway?). One of the fundamental differences between American culture and the three countries I mentioned, I think, is that they have deep and rich cultural histories. For example, all embrace their agricultural roots, even though all are predominantly urban/industrialized. In America, we run away from that past. In many neighborhoods, you can grow flowers in your garden, but not fruits or vegetables. That’s just one example of how our culture has detached itself from agriculture. Another is the emphasis of convenience over everything (for what it’s worth, I have articles on both topics on this website). In addition, we see ourselves as always needing to blaze new trails. The “old ways” are seen as irrelevant and anti-progress, and they’re dismissed without deep reflection. In other cultures, the past is carefully preserved.

    This is why I say we need a revolution to make cultural changes. We’ve strayed so far from the basics of humanity that we see no reason to even question our direction. That is, we’re so busy being busy (as if that’s a virtue), that we don’t take time for deep thought and introspection. That’s what’s needed to make meaningful change, but we won’t entertain it.

    Also, my parents told me that when they were growing up, oranges and nuts were Christmas only items. That’s how much things have changed.

  18. Great article, as always! The last 3 years I have become increasingly allergic to many foods. I decided to switch to mostly organic, and am starting to feel better. Many of my friends say they can’t afford organic, but what I found when I stopped buying a lot of the junk foods, that I was able to more easily afford better ones. (This did take me awhile!). While 1 in every 3-4 commercials is related to medicines, the rest are food commercials. Our children are literally satured with this on a daily basis. I work with adult patients of all ages. I would say the majority of the ones I work with are on no less than 30 medications, some as high as 50. Yes, you heard right): We are getting an increasing number of younger patients with very serious, and chronic health issues. Many healthcare professions are increasingly required to follow certain “scriptings” when they talk to their patients. I think it may be difficult for many people to grasp the extent to which healthcare is now driven by numbers and corporate profits, it is totally driven by this in my opinion. I stopped eating red meat years ago after learning about agribusiness, and the daily horrors perpetuated on animals. Thank you Suzy for bringing this up!

  19. Hi LA – 10 years ago I might have dismissed your comments as those of a food extremist, but I’ve been gradually coming around to similar thinking. It really is amazing how much we’re all conditioned to accept certain norms, like better nutrition through science (read: genetic manipulation), and the efficacy of drug therapy. But as you point out, one out of every three or four commercials on TV is for meds, and most of the rest are for food. Indoctrination is obvious, and it is a factor, especially with kids who don’t know another time.

    There are certain benefits to both the foods and the meds, but the negatives are completely ignored in favor of pushing products. We really do need a quiet revolution, where we start to think and act independently, and more in ways that will improve our health, occupations, finances, spiritual and social constructs, and life in general. Indoctrination has become part of the official unofficial narrative, and the only way to escape it is to purposefully commit to living and thinking differently. Not easy, but increasingly necessary. We can no longer believe what we’re being told from mainstream sources.

  20. No sickness, no profit.
    I agree that eating better is always a smart thing. What you said above is scary. Doctors are required to follow certain scriptings when talking to patients. It’s all about pushing pills. We trust our doctors but I my opinion, they can’t be trusted. When there is profit behind it, that becomes the main priority.
    30 medications? Why if you are a normal adult can you not see this as insanity. All these chemicals floating around in your body and brain, mixing together have to have detrimental short and long-term effects.

    I saw a study that says ADHD drugs have basically the same properties as meth. No wonder we have a whole generation of kids shooting each other. The opiates are basically legal heroin. We take these things because, well it came from a doctor it must be ok.

    A good diet is never bad, but I don’t care how good you eat the body breaks down with age. 95 percent of us are going to be confronted with making decisions about medications at some point.
    I had simple knee surgery awhile back and the doctor gave me a 4 month supply of basically heroin. Why? it was a 2 week recovery period. I never took one pill. I just dealt with the pain. Threw them out.

    So I agree, a good diet is never bad but this goes way beyond that. Kevin pointed out some very dangerous things above. I just pray people don’t read over them.

  21. Hi Tim – To your point connecting ADHD drugs and shootings, Doug Casey recently wrote about that connection, and I agree. But getting back to meds, I think the doctors are following a treatment protocol with each patient. I doubt they make it up themselves. Since they’re now all part of corporate medical groups, it’s very likely they’ve resorted to centralized protocols. That not only makes the doctor’s job easier, but it also pushes therapies (drugs in particular), and makes it easier to defend against lawsuits.

    I saw something similar in the mortgage business with centralized/automated underwriting, where the underwriter’s loan decision capability was virtually taken away in favor of AI analysis. BTW, the AI failed to prevent the housing crisis of 2008. But I’ve also seen it with investment management. When I was in public accounting, virtually every client of an investment management firm had basically the same investments, with only minor differences in asset allocations. The “advisor” functions mainly as a salesman for the investment template. (For that matter, portfolios from one investment management firm to another show noticeable similarities.)

    Everything is going that way. Automatic is replacing individuality and personal judgement. This is also why jobs are being eliminated. If everything can be systematized, fewer people are needed.

    As I’ve said many times in my articles and comments, all this bad stuff is interrelated. That’s what makes it so hard to fight against. As another frequent commentor (I wish I could remember who) said, it’s a Matrix. It leaves us fighting against a force that at once is all-encompassing, and yet totally out of plain sight.

  22. I understand. I know their not making it up themselves. What bothers me is that when you do that it stunts your ability to think for yourself.
    That is exactly why I never went to any money management firm or investment people. I have a self-directed IRA. So if I go broke it’s on me nobody else. I decide what I invest in.

    We as a society I believe have lost the ability to think for ourselves. Like I said above, 30 different medications? Really? what is this person thinking? How do we think it doesn’t affect our bodies in a negative way.

    It’s a matrix for sure.

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